Nebraska couple to celebrate 70th wedding anniversary

Barb and Bob Winchell relax at home with their dog, Maggie. The couple will celebrate their 70th wedding anniversary on Thursday.

Teenage sweethearts Bob and Barb Winchell of North Platte will celebrate their 70th wedding anniversary on Thursday, Jan. 24. The couple doesn't have big plans, saying they don't want a fuss.

"We told our kids we were going to treat it like any other day," Bob said.

Bob grew up in Julesburg, Colo., and met the younger Barbara Harding through his sister.

"We didn't have many dates," Barb said. " I don't even remember exactly how we met. In a small town there wasn't much to do. Our Saturday night was sitting in the car watching people go by."

"We did have a roller rink and we went skating a lot," Bob said.

Right after graduation from high school, Bob enlisted in the Navy and the couple eloped to Sidney, Neb.

"Bob's sister and her husband took us and paid for our marriage license," Barb said. "We didn't have anything."

Bob shipped out, leaving his teenage bride home, living with her parents awaiting the birth of their first child. Their daughter Linda was 2 by the time Bob returned from service in the Pacific.

At home in Julesburg, Bob went to work for the Union Pacific Railroad.

"The years after the war weren't easy," Barb said. "The first big thing I remember is getting a Maytag washing machine."

"If we wanted something, we saved for it," Bob said.

In 1950 the growing family moved to North Platte. The couple had four children, Linda, Dan, John and Dean. Bob continued to work for the railroad and Barb went to work at St. Mary's Hospital. She worked at various jobs in town, including in an optometrist's office and as a bookkeeper at the Ramada Inn.

"I've done everything," Barb said. "I did fine up until computers started coming in. Computers really whip me."

"I tried to get certain hours so that Barb could have some time for herself. She had some really good jobs," Bob said.

"Because we got married so young, she didn't have a lot of education, but she really did well for herself."

The young family enjoyed trips to the Shady Inn for hamburgers and walks to the ice cream store. The first few years in North Platte were tough.

"I hated leaving Julesburg," Barb said. "I had to leave my mom and dad and we didn't know anyone in North Platte. But you don't just walk away when things get tough. I always laugh when I hear another couple say they never fight. I always doubt that. Maybe there are people like that, but I haven't met them."

Bob retired from Union Pacific after 35 years.

"I got tired of sitting around so I did maintenance at the high-rise apartments," Bob said. "Then I got tired of that and retired for good."

Today the couple enjoys their cozy apartment at Centennial Park Retirement where they have lived for three years with their dog, Maggie.

When exactly was their most recent fight?

"Oh, this morning," Barb said with a laugh. "We argued about where to meet the reporter from the (North Platte) Telegraph. I wanted to get a bigger room and Bob said we wouldn't need one. He was right. This time."

Bob is having some trouble with his eyesight, and Barb requires oxygen, but in general the couple are healthy. They enjoy the activities at Centennial Park and spending time with family.

"We have a big family and a lot of them are right here in North Platte," Barb said. "They are very good to us, even though we tell them they aren't."

"The way we got started maybe wasn't the best, but I ended up with a nice wife and a good family," Bob said. "I thank God every day for that."

"At first it wasn't a great love affair, but it became a good romance," Barb said. "I grew to love him and I hope he loved me because he was stuck with me. I always told him that if he left, he would have to take the kids."

"I never did get that mad," Bob replied.

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